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Red light cameras (RLCs) are illegal in 10 U.S. states, and Governor Greg Abbott has voiced the opinion that Texas should join them.

In a proposal to ban the technology, Abbott has previously tweeted that there is “no evidence that red light cameras lead to improvements in safety,” but Doug Wiersig, director of Fort Worth’s Transportation Center, disagrees. He says the 58 cameras that the city has at 44 of the busiest intersections have reduced accidents by approximately 58 percent, and the money the city receives for the violations pays for the cameras and goes to the state trauma fund and other road safety programs.

Red Light Cameras Collect Mixed Reviews  

Approximately 44 percent of all traffic deaths and serious accidents occur at intersections, which has prompted many urban areas to install red light cameras to make intersections safer. The opinions about whether or not they increase safety are mixed:

  • The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has reported that red light camera programs in 79 major U.S. cities prevented approximately 1,300 fatalities through 2014, and the fatality rate rose 30 percent due to red light running in cities that outlawed RLCs.
  • A Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study concluded that the positive effects of RLC systems were at least partially offset by negative effects such as rear end crashes, but a modest to moderate economic benefit was still obtained.
  • According to a Newswheel report, red light cameras: “revenue-generating machines or surveillance tools against innocent citizens” actually increase rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes upon approaching monitored intersections.
  • A Chicago Tribune study found that the city’s red light camera system is making Chicago intersections “less safe,” and found no safety benefits whatsoever from cameras installed at intersections where there have already been few crashes, and evidence suggests that crashes with injuries at these intersections actually increased by 19 percent.

Red light cameras provide significant financial benefits for local governments across the country, but even increased revenue has its detractors. According to the Chicago Tribune study, the red light program has raised more than $500 million since 2002, although at least 13,000 Chicago drivers were allegedly cited in error. While no real-world technology is going to operate error free, some feel even such a small percentage of misidentified drivers is unacceptable. For Texas Governor Greg Abbott, it’s a complicated system with a simple fix staring us all in the face, “I think the better solution is just good old-fashioned law enforcement.”

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for James C. Walker

    Most studies done by unbiased traffic safety researchers and investigative reporters (people and groups that are not in the revenue stream from red light cameras) show neutral or negative safety results from red light cameras.

    Red light cameras are illegal in 10 states, but also note they are not used in another 17 states where legislatures have been wise enough to never authorize them.

    The IIHS would more properly be known as the Insurance Institute for Higher Surcharges. They advocate for red light (and speed) cameras because is some states they can add high insurance premium surcharges to safe drivers caught in for-profit ticket camera traps where the traffic safety parameters are deliberately done less-safely to cause more tickets and surcharges. The IIHS is in no way an unbiased source of information about traffic enforcement and the resulting safety issues.

    When bills to bring red light cameras to Michigan were introduced in 2013, the combined opposition and testimony from the Police Officers Association of Michigan, the ACLU, the Campaign for Liberty, Abate, the Mackinac Center think tank, the judges association, the National Motorists Association, skeptical editorials in both major Detroit newspapers, and others caused the bills to be withdrawn.

    Red light (and speed) cameras are for-profit rackets that no one should tolerate.

    James C. Walker, Life Member - National Motorists Association

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